Mmmmmm… Beer.

14 Dec

I figure that one-word title got the attention of most of you.  For the rest, you can buy your own damn drink.

I have a confession to make.  I am a beer snob.  I wasn’t born with a silver can in the fridge, it just sort of happened about a year ago when I started dating my wife.  Yes, I am fully and openly blaming her.  Now, I am not talking about chugging away at a case of American mass-produced swill like a freshman at a frat party.    I am talking about the finely crafted beers that are made in small batches at the microbreweries across the country.

I am lucky enough to live in what has been dubbed “the Napa Valley of craft brewing”.  Colorado, a Mecca for beer aficionados from across the country, now has over 150 breweries that produce some of the finest beers on the planet.  Luckily for us, many of these are not exported beyond the borders of our fine state, and some not even that far.  The artisans that create these masterpieces are like the wine makers of the 80’s.  They take different strains of hops, combine with flavors from the ordinary to the exotic, and create a taste and sensory explosion on your palate.  Wheat beer, Kolsch, lager, amber, brown, stout and pale.  If you can dream it, someone has probably put it into a fermenter.  However, there is nothing more beautiful than what can only be described as truly a masterful American creation:  The India Pale Ale and its beefier cousin, the Double IPA.

Since my eyes were opened to the world of beer last summer, I have gained a true appreciation for the IPA.  I look for them at every brewery, ask for them at every restaurant.  I have several favorites, some that are perfect for everyday consumption, and others that are best reserved for special occasions.  While they are all IPAs in name, they are as different as snowflakes.  Even within different batches of the same beer, one can note subtle differences.

An IPA gains its flavor and its overall character from the hops and malt the brewer uses to create the beer.  Different malts and roasts can change the backbone from sweet to smoky.  Different hops, like different grapes, provide different notes in the finished product.  Dry hopping produces a significantly different flavor than does a wet application.  Hops from different areas of the country have different subtleties, all of which combine to create a unique experience.

I am not a beer expert.  Far from it in fact.  I would consider myself more of a suds mauler than a sommelier.  But I know what I like, and for me it takes a perfect combination of hops and malts to please my palate.  One measures the hoppiness of a beer by calculating the IBUs, or International Bitterness Units.  To give you an example, most lagers (Budweiser, Coors, etc.) come in at less than 10 IBUs.  On the other end of the scale, there are IPAs that tilt the scale at over 115 IBUs.  Having had the pleasure of trying so many hoppy beers, the lesser IBU-endowed ones just don’t do it for me any more.  It’s like heroin.  The longer you use, the more you body needs.  I have built up a hop-tolerance!  Couple this with the fact that the average American beer has about 3.8 – 4.0% ABV.  Most of the IPAs out there these days run in the mid-6% range, and there are some that touch the sky (or maybe the floor after too many) at almost 11%.  I’m sold.

Anyway, to sum up here are some of the breweries and beers to which I tip my hat.  Thank you for making beer enjoyable again!

Beers:  Avery IPA; Maharaja (Brewed only twice a year, this is my favorite beer on the planet and I wait anxiously each year for it to come out again.); Titan IPA; Hercules Double IPA; Modus Hoperandi; Dale’s Pale Ale; Fisherman’s Double IPA (This is the only beer that has yet come close to Maharaja for me); Seven Seas Double IPA (It will always be Seven Seas to us, screw that Washington outfit!); Puma IPA.

Breweries:  Avery Brewing, Great Divide. Ska Brewing, Oskar Blues, Left Hand Brewing, Trinity Brewing, Twisted Pine, Boulder Beer, Walnut Brewery, Dry Dock Brewing, Cape Ann Brewing, Golden Brewing Company, Bear Republic Brewing, and our local Elk Mountain Brewing.

And if you can’t decide on which to visit or sample, never fear.  Head to LoDo and ask for Stevie at Falling Rock Tap House.  He will steer you in the right direction.

Prost!

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The Man Who Changed Everything

7 Oct

It took a full day before I was able to write this.  I spent a good part of the day reading through the stories of people creating memorials, looking at the pictures, and finding myself remarkably emotional about the whole thing.  I never met Steve Jobs, never really thought about who was running the show out there in Cupertino.  But like 300 million other people on this planet, I have part of Steve Jobs with me almost everywhere I go.

Like me, many of you have an iPod.  Or two.  A couple of months ago, I wrote about how Google has seemingly taken over our lives.  As I look back on that now, I think that there needs to be a caveat to that thought.  While Google may own email, web searching, browsers, etc., Apple clearly owns the hardware and our hearts.  Steve Jobs had a vision of simplicity that started in his parent’s garage and evolved into a multi-billion dollar organization that has created the most innovative and widely popular device portfolio on the planet.

My first experience with Apple was almost 30 years ago.  I had an Apple IIe at home, and learned the basics of computer use on that first iconic machine.  In my adolescent and adult life, I steered clear of Apple products for many years.  Maybe it was the cost, maybe the fear of having to learn a whole new way to think when it came to interfacing with my computer.  When I got my first iPod in 2005, it was plugged into a Dell Windows-based machine.  Oh, what a fool I was back then.  When my Dell finally decided it was time to join the ranks of expired hardware, I made the decision to jump off the deep end and go Mac.  After quite a bit of hesitation, I purchased my MacBook Pro.  Not willing to completely let Microsoft out of my life, I made sure that I had Word, Excel, and PowerPoint on the new computer.

Within the first ten minutes of playing with my new computer, I was in love.  My worries about learning a new OS?  Long gone.  What Apple had created from Jobs’ vision was the easiest, most intuitive user interface I have ever seen.  This device is so user friendly, you can almost feel Steve Jobs himself welcoming you into the fold.  And the look?  I’m sorry, but the brushed aluminum frame beats any laptop on the market today for overall aesthetic.  So why, may you ask, does the email signature from my phone clearly read “Not sent from an iPhone”?

That is one of life’s little ironies.  I saw so many emails with the iPhone signature that it got old; like the hit song that gets too much play on the radio.  I was lured by the idea of the Android platform and the fact that it was the new shiny thing on the block.  While that phone has served its purpose, I have had multiple issues with it and have finally made the decision to join the ranks of the iPhone users.  Which is great because with the introduction if iOS5, it will sync with my iPad over the air, no wires needed.

Ultimately, this is not about me.  This is about the extraordinary vision of a man who will be deeply missed.  His guidance and leadership of not just Apple, but of the whole world, will be seen and felt for years to come.  Steve Jobs taught us that it is OK to dream big and make those dreams a reality.  Steve Jobs saw simple, easy to use technology for everyone and through his leadership, he delivered.  For that Mr. Jobs, we offer our deepest appreciation for changing our lives for the better.  You will be missed.

Is Google Taking Over our Lives?

15 Jul

I remember when I was a kid sitting in math class and someone introduced the concept of a Google to me for the first time.  Let me preface this by saying that I both hate and suck at math, but the idea of 1 with 100 zeroes behind it was somehow fascinating.  It was the closest thing to infinity that I had ever considered.  Now, as I look at how intertwined Google is in my day to day life, I wonder if Larry Page and Sergey Brin had the same thoughts sitting in their math classes.

My first online experience was with my old IBM clone, dialing into BBS servers on a 2400 baud modem in 1991.  Now, I sit at a computer with two flat screens and an Ethernet connection and access to anything my mind can conceive (and many things it wishes it has never seen).  My first email account was with Yahoo!, who was tops back in ’98.  I still have that account, more for sentimental value than anything else.  It gets checked about once a month.  Yahoo! used to be the king of all things internet related.  They ruled the email and search world, had games and rudimentary social networking features.  Everyone jumped on that bandwagon and loved it.

Then along comes Google.  Touted as the next thing in search engines and designed to help you find lemon colored socks for your puppy, it made Yahoo! look like a joke.  Google was so popular that it quickly became the number one search platform on the internet.  Now, Google has become a verb as well as a noun. Just Google it.  Little did we know that within a few short years, Google would be much more than a search engine.

Enter Gmail.  As with their search engine, Google came along and crushed Yahoo!’s email client.  As of right now, Gmail is the number one rated free email service on the planet.  Yahoo?  They are in a distant fifth place.  Sorry folks.  I was drooling at the mouth thinking about having access to a Gmail account.  I waited and waited for that invitation to come by text.  And I didn’t text back then!  I got lucky and did get an invite, and was able to secure a great Gmail address for myself.  I have never looked back.  Gmail may be the best external email client I have ever used.  I swear by it and recommend it to everyone I know.  I have integrated it into Outlook on my old computer, and now into Entourage and Mail on my Mac. Which brings me to my phone.

If I flip that skinny little piece of technology over, the first thing I see on the back is HTC in big, shiny letters.  But if I look down at the bottom, whose logo do I see?  Why, it’s Google.  They are EVERYWHERE.  When I set up my phone for the first time, it asked me to create a Gmail account.  Wow, that is a bit presumptuous.  Glad I already had one.  And that I love it.  (Interesting side note for you iOS users.  Apple and Google are now the single biggest competitors in the wireless market.  Even the iPhone wants you to have a Gmail account to use email with their devices.  What happens when Google starts making software for the iPhone?)  When I hit the little search button, it uses Google technology to look for stuff in my phone and online at the same time.  It is my go-to answer machine.  It pisses off my fiancee on a regular basis because if there is something I can’t answer off the top of my head, I just hit that little button, type in what I am looking for and it appears!  God love the search feature.

Now, you may be wondering how much more I can talk about Google.  I have touted the online search engine, the email, and the technology built into my little crack-phone.  But I am not done yet.  Not by a long shot.  Google Sites has given me the ability to build a website with which I can share information about my upcoming wedding (104 days remain as of this posting) with the world.  Google Analytics is like instant heroin for data junkies.  I have that code tied to my website.  With the click of a mouse, I can cyber-stalk the people who have visited my site.  I can see locations, times, pages viewed, browsers used; pretty much anything.  Hell, without Google, I would have had to find somewhere else to share my random thoughts with the two or three of you who actually choose to read them.

Enter Google+.  I am still not quite sure how to take this whole “jumping off the deep end into the social networking pool” bit, but my satisfaction with other Google products has been extremely good, so I am going to give it a shot.  I got my invite last week, got in, and started putting people in circles like some biologist putting bacteria into petri dishes to study under a microscope.  What the hell is wrong with this picture?  I will admit, I was a Zuckerberg whore (and still am) and probably spend more time on Facebook than I should.  I ditched MySpace years ago, too simple and stupid.  I can’t tell you of anyone I know that isn’t on Facebook at this point.  It seems to be how we communicate with everyone all the time.  The irony of Google+ is that I can get my Google status to automatically update my Facebook status.  The ultimate cyber-finger to MZ?  Who knows.  I hope that it takes off, but that just pulls me deeper and deeper into the Goobyss.

Overall, even though it seems Google is now as pervasive in our daily lives as say, breathing, I have to admit it has made my life easier and more interesting.  All the information I want is there at the touch of a button.  All the information I have that you DON”T want to hear about is another button away; this one just reads “send”. Google is starting to live up to the image I had of it way back in math class.  As close to infinity as I can consider.